Smooth Tasting Merlot
Think of velvet and fruit combined and you'll be pretty close to Merlot. Merlot is a red that is approachable for even the novice. It lacks the harsh tannins found in Cabernet Sauvignon, is fruitier in general (noted as plumy) and has a shorter maturation period. It is predominantly described as smooth and fleshy.
Found all over the world, the predominate producers come from Bordeaux St. Emillion, Pomerol, Italy, Switzerland, California, New York State Long Island, Washington State and Chile. Don't expect all of the versions to be straight Merlot. Merlot lends itself to blending well because it smooths out the harsh tannins of many of the bolder wines. For old world wines, Merlot is always found in combination. In France, it is like an insurance policy. Their blends get higher in Merlot during a bad season for Cabernet because it is generally picked earlier before trouble starts. Only one wine from France is 99% Merlot and is one of the world's most expensive wines, Chateau Petrus from Pomerol. In Chile there is no telling if you are really drinking 99% of any varietal because of their lackadaisical labeling laws.
If you are dabbling with a Bordeaux wine, you are drinking Merlot blended to perfection. This is where your geography lessons really come in handy. Bordeaux is blend wine, combining Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot (a few others for good measures but let's not complicate things). The two grapes thrive under different climates however and here's where knowledge of the land comes in handy. The Boudeaux hailing from the left bank have a higher proportion of Cabernet while the right bank hails higher in Merlot. Get your maps out folks. It's all about what grows better on the coastal side with forests and fog (left) or has an unprotected shorter growing season (right). What you get is a beautiful wine that collectors go nuts over.
So back here in the New World, Merlot has had its ups and downs but definitely stands on its own now. Napa Valley vintners were the first to start recognizing Merlot as a stand alone grape. Because it is a fruitier wine, it balances well as a mid-level intensity wine. This means that it lacks the boldness of a Cabernet Sauvignon or a Zinfandel and is softer and rounder on the palette.
A word of caution however with Merlot. Where this grape is planted makes all the difference. A GOOD Merlot should be soft and full, but many of the wines produced in California are harsher than they should be. Again with the geography? Yes. This is a geographically sensitive grape. A Merlot from a hot area has all the softness of a knife. Look for coastal regions. This is one of the reasons Washington State (9check out Walla Walla) and Long Island have been having some success with the varietal so keep that in mind when evaluating your Merlot.
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Happy tasting and we'll see you at www.thewinoclub.com!
Darcy & Stacy
Smooth Tasting Merlot
Posted by The Wino Club at 4:53 AM
A BIG Thank You goes out to our friend Chris Baily, Owner of Baily's Fine Dining and Front Street Bar & Grill in Old Town Temecula, CA for the beautifully paired recipes for beautiful Merlot. They are so easy and so delicious anyone can make them. They are also perfectly paired with Merlot, since it is one of the ingredients in all three recipes.
Make sure to visit their website at www.oldtowndining.com. The absolute coolest thing about these restaurants is it is a two in one! You enter into Front Street Bar and Grill where the bar offers an amazing list of wines and beer, have a meal perfect for the day time on their patio or go upstairs for fine dining at its best. It could be a whole field trip in one!
Put out some beautiful crostini and you are all set to fly with these three easy appetizers!
Cream Cheese Tapenade
3 Cups Cream Cheese
2 Tablespoons Garlic, Peeled
2 Tablespoons Shallots, Peeled
½ Cup Merlot
1 Cup Kalamata Olives, Pitted
1. Place Olives, shallots, garlic in a sauté pan and lightly sauté until tender.
2. Deglaze with Wine
3. Place all in the food processor including room temperature cream cheese and blend until smooth.
Red Onion Confit
2 Tablespoons Butter
2 Cups Red Onion, Julienne
1 ½ ounce Merlot
2 Tablespoons Honey
1 ½ ounce Red Wine Vinegar
1. Heat the butter in a medium pan on low and scrape the milk solids off the top.
2. Pour the butter back into the pan and add onion. Sauté until softened.
3. Stir in the honey and cook the mixture until the onions are caramelized.
4. Add in the remaining ingredients and reduce for about 5 minutes. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.
1 Tablespoon Butter
8 Crimini Mushrooms chopped
½ Shallot peeled and chopped
1 ounce Merlot
1. Heat butter in pan, add shallots and sweat until transparent. Add wine to deglaze pan
2. Add mushrooms to pan and cook until lightly browned.
3. Add chives and salt and pepper to taste.
4. Let cool before serving.
Don't forget to visit Baily's or Front Street Bar & Grill time you're in the Temecula and say hello to Chris. He is a fellow Rotarian and is known to serve up some mighty fine wine to our winos!
28699 Old Town Front Street - Temecula - CA - 92590
Merlot Quick Tips
Merlot is all about softness and sensuality. Merlots come from all over the world, from Bordeaux, St. Emillion, Pomerol, Italy, Switzerland, California, even Long Island. It has moderate tannins, high alcohol and little acid. Look for the following flavors and scents when tasting this wine:
Blueberry Blackberry Cherry or Black Cherry
Plum Prune Black Pepper
Cigar Box Mint Toffee
Vanilla Cocoa Coffee
Spice Chocolate Mocha